How does Dana's perspective on history change through the course of the novel?
Dana is sent between the past and the present and has to adjust her thinking on history itself. She first has a privileged 20th century mentality and sees herself as a spectator and an outsider; however, as time goes on (literally), she becomes more of an "agent of history," as critic Ashraf H.A. Rushdy writes. She has to make herself a historical subject in the past and see how history is still unfolding in the present. She uses writing to do so, writing in both the past and the present in the most personal way, and linking her family history and community through this medium.
How progressive of a man is Kevin?
Kevin is certainly progressive in many ways. He has married a black woman whom he treats well and fosters an egalitarian relationship; he is intelligent and well-read, excoriates slavery and slaveowners; and he becomes an abolitionist when he is left in the 19th century. However, he is still a man, and sometimes his ideas about his wife seem antiquated. He assumed she would type his manuscripts, and some of his comments about rape are problematic. He also does not seem to see the realities of slavery as Dana does, because he is white. He occasionally allows his privilege that stems from his skin color and gender to blind him to what is actually going on, and to make tone-deaf comments about the time period. He is certainly much better than many other white men, but there are some issues to be aware of.
Why does Dana need to kill Rufus, and what is the significance of this action?
Initially, Dana is unsure about killing Rufus. She wonders if this will destroy her own bloodline and thus obviate her own birth, and she also wonders if his death would be bad for the Weylin slaves. However, when Rufus tries to rape Dana, she does not hesitate, and kills him. This is a way for her to finally assert herself as a black woman; it reveals that she learned the lessons from her time as a slave that she needed to learn. She will not give up her body like she gave up certain other things from her self.
What are Dana's thoughts regarding Sarah, and how do they change over the course of the novel?
When Dana initially meets Sarah she is rather disdainful of her. She wonders why she is mean to the other slaves and why she seems disinclined to be open about her life. The biggest issue, though, is that Sarah seems to have accepted her life as a slave and does not resist in the way Dana thinks she and Alice do. She sees Sarah as a "Mammy" figure, and feels morally superior to her. As time goes on, though, she comes to see that this is unfair. Sarah is doing all she can; this is her form of resistance. Slavery is so abominable and incomprehensible that resistance can take all forms, and Sarah is no exception in this regard.
What is the significance of Alice and Dana being considered two halves of the same woman?
Dana and Alice look the same because they are related, but their similarities are important in other ways as well. Both are smart, independent, wily, and desirous of developing their sense of self. They seem to think the same and have the same fiery spirit. Dana, living in the 20th century, has the ability to manifest these traits much more easily. She says what she thinks, is self-employed, and is in a mostly egalitarian marriage. Alice on the other hand is privy to the whims of her white master, although she chafes at this control. It is very likely that if Dana were actually a slave she would be just like Alice, and if Alice lived in the 20th century, she would be just like Dana. Finally, both women exert a pull over Rufus, and both escape him in their own way–Alice by suicide, and Dana by killing him.